Q: I recommended renewal of my high school principal’s contract but intend to reassign him to the junior high campus, which will move him down a step on our administrator salary schedule. Am I required to provide written notice of the anticipated reduction in compensation before the school year begins? Even if it’s only a few hundred dollars?
A: Yes, employees must be provided written notice of any reduction in overall compensation between contract years prior to the 45th calendar day before the first day of instruction.
The Commissioner of Education has interpreted the Education Code as permitting school districts to “reduce an element of its teachers’ salaries after the unilateral resignation deadline as long as the teachers’ total compensation was not reduced.” Thus far, the Commissioner has not specifically excluded any one or more components of compensation in the calculation. As such, we recommend written notice of any reduction, however slight, occurring between contract years, whether the result of a reassignment, removal of a stipend or reduction in number of days worked. Timely notice requires communication to the employee in writing at least 45 calendar days prior to the first day of instruction. This rule follows the 45 day “penalty-free” resignation deadline, requiring a school district to give notice of an impending salary reduction while the educator still has time to contemplate the reduction and voluntarily resign. Tex. Educ. Code §21.210.
Note that if your district is beginning the school year early pursuant to a District of Innovation Plan, your 45 day deadline could be as early as mid-June. All decisions regarding 2022-2023 assignments must be made in sufficient time to meet this deadline. Also critical is the actual wording of the notice letter, which must be both formal and specific, e.g. it must come from someone in a position of authority and indicate the actual reduction anticipated. A notice indicating that the employee “will be paid according to a salary schedule adopted by the board” (or other vague terms) has been held insufficient.
For additional questions regarding reassignments and reductions in overall compensation, please contact your local school district attorney.